Saturday, July 14, 2012

A poet's life

An interesting quote from Matsuo Bashō, on the life of a poet:

In this mortal frame of mine, which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices, there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit, for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind. This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another. At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.

The extract comes from Journal of a Travel-Worn Satchel (translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa) and quoted in the opening of Jane Hirschfield's book, The Heart of Haiku. 

I perhaps should be grateful that I don't feel that writing poetry is my 'lifelong business', nevertheless I understand Bashō's comments. 

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